Saving seeds is a timeless tradition. It's also a cost-effective way to promote the genetic diversity of future plants. Although seeds available for purchase are often viable, sees that are saved from previous crops are already acclimated toward the weather, soil and pests. Saved seeds also are more likely to produce “true-to-type” plants that resemble the parent plant. Look through your plants and tag examples of the produce that you want to cultivate in future crops. For example, if you want the earliest tomatoes tag the first ripe tomato from your crop. Gather seeds from the plants you've tagged.
Pick dry and ripe produce to cut away seeds and prepare them for drying. After you harvest dry and ripe produce, collect the seeds by carefully cutting them from the fruit with a small carving knife. The seeds should be separated completely from all fruit and pulp. Wipe them clean.
Spread out seeds on newspaper to air dry. Newspaper makes a great place for drying seeds because it will absorb moisture. Spread out the newspaper and then leave seeds to dry for approximately one week. Seeds may seem dry when picked but they will still need several days’ worth of air drying to prevent molding during storage. Some seeds, such as tomatoes, have a jelly-like coating over the seeds. Allow extra drying time for these seeds. Once the coating is dry, it will flake off.
Store seeds in a labeled container. Some people prefer air-tight jars and other throw their seeds in envelopes. Just be sure the containers are labeled so you know exactly what you have for next year’s garden bounty.
Things You Will Need
- Parent plant
- Carving knife
- Storage containers
- For consistent results only save the seeds of heirloom plants. Hybrids do not produce "true-to-type" plants from seed.
- Beginners should stick with "perfect" pollinating produce--plants that have both female and male parts. These plants include tomatoes, corn, beans, snap peas, peppers and soy.
- Do not dry seeds in the oven. Exposure to heat for any extended period of time will kill the seed.